Beachfront fatal crash driver ‘fled scene out of fear’
Accused says he thought onlookers were coming to attack him
A pilot has admitted to crashing the car he was driving into a pedestrian on the Port Elizabeth beachfront, killing the man, and deciding to flee when he saw the body lying in the middle of the road.
The young man, who had a string of supporters at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, including family members from all over, conceded further to having been in SA illegally for the past nine months.
It was on this basis alone that the prosecution said it was opposed to bail.
Kelvin Zirema, 32, was arrested on Sunday after smashing into two pedestrians, instantly killing one of them, and fleeing the scene because he “feared for his life”.
In a surprising tell-all affidavit in support of his bail application on Thursday, Zirema’s defence counsel further admitted that the young man had consumed three whiskeys and a shooter at a braai in Bluewater Bay in the hours leading up to the fatal crash.
But, Zirema said, the only reason he fled the scene was because he feared for his safety.
While Anthony Agbo, 35, of Nigeria, died shortly after being hit by the Audi A4, another pedestrian – a 26-year-old woman – was admitted to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Zirema said he had been in SA since August 2009 on a temporary permit.
He had studied towards his pilot’s licence at the APTRAC Aviation Academy in Port Elizabeth and obtained his private pilot’s licence in March 2010.
Since then, he had been in the process of accumulating flying hours to obtain his helicopter licence.
He had accordingly been assisting at the Algoa Flying Club as well as with helicopter charter and training at the airport on a part-time basis.
The court will rule on the bail application on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Melani Hammett said that while Zirema may have been a decent person who did voluntary work, he clearly did not follow the rules as he had been in the country illegally for about nine months prior to the crash.
As he was an illegal foreigner, he was a flight risk.
Zirema, described in several accompanying affidavits as a well-loved and respected student, recalled the harrowing details of the early hours of Sunday morning.
“On Sunday morning, I was the driver of the Audi A4 that was involved in the incident at the intersection of Beach Road and La Roche Drive during which a pedestrian was killed and another critically injured,” he admitted in an affidavit read out by defence advocate Hannelie Bakker.
He said the night before the incident his friend, Mbaza Madlokazi, had given him permission to use his Audi – as he had done on many previous occasions.
After attending a braai at a doctor’s house in Bluewater Bay, where he drank three Jameson whiskeys and a Jagermeister shooter, he went to the popular Cubana restaurant in Summerstrand.
There, he said, he had only consumed lemonade because he was the designated driver and did not want his driving abilities to be impaired.
“I recall parking the vehicle on the beach side of the road.
“I recall that I made a Uturn in Beach Road in front of McDonald’s,” Zirema said.
“Unfortunately, due to shock and trauma from the incident, I am having trouble concentrating and recalling the events that followed.”
The accident occurred just before 4am.
“When I came to a stop after the accident, I alighted from the vehicle and saw one body in the road and people running to the scene.“I panicked and thought that they were coming to attack me because that is what I witnessed in Wells Estate when a driver collided with a child. “I started to run home.” He said he ran to his house in South End, where he woke up his housemates.“I informed them that I had been involved in an accident and that I needed my passport.“I requested them to take me to the police station immediately but that I first wanted to inform my friend and owner of the vehicle about the crash.”Zirema said as he approached Madlokazi’s house across the road, he noticed that the police were already there.“The police informed us that they were searching for a person involved in an accident in Summerstrand.“I immediately informed them that I had been the driver. They arrested me.”He said he could afford bail in the amount of R10,000.In one of the affidavits in support of Zirema’s application for bail, John Huddlestone, 64, the owner of Helicopter Charter and Training, said he had met Zirema in 2014 because they attended the same church.Thereafter, they started a working relationship and Huddlestone said he had always found Zirema to be “trustworthy, helpful, reliable and a likeable person”.Zirema faces provisional charges of culpable homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, reckless and negligent driving, defeating the administration of justice and being in contravention of the immigration act.Bakker said while Zirema’s visa had expired, he still had a valid passport.She said the only reason he had been unable to renew the visa was due to financial constraints.